DT&G Magazine, Photoshop Tips & Tricks, and the Design Bookshelf are proud to feature this article from Sharon Steuer from her new book "Creative Thinking in Photoshop"
Creative Thinking in Photoshop  |  Page 2  | 

Compositing an Imaginary Place with Photoshop

Sharon Steuer

Sharon's blockbuster book
Excerpt taken from Sharon's blockbuster book!
Traditionally, artists create sketches to quickly work through compositional ideas. Unfortunately, although you might be able to visualize how your sketch might be transformed into a finished image, clients are notoriously incapable of envisioning anything beyond what they see in front of them. When a client thought she wanted me to create an interior/exterior scene for a folding screen, I decided to try something new. Instead of beginning with sketches, I decided to piece together digital snapshots to create a composition that would both be easier for the client to interpret and could also eventually serve as a reference for me to use in creating the actual painted screen. Along the way, I discovered a method for creating imaginary places. So even though the folding screen project ended up going in an entirely different direction, I completely fell in love with this new way of working.
      If you don't have access to a digital camera, you can scan prints instead -- it's just that using digital snapshots is so quick and immediate and saves bundles on processing fees. You can shoot shots and assemble later, or you can have a composition in mind and gather material for that vision. Because you move through ideas quickly with this way of working, I encourage you to be less careful and more spontaneous. Don't worry about creating perfect masks until you are relatively sure that this is the final version. Just relax and think of this as a loose sketching process.
      I needed source material for creating the interior/exterior composition, and my mother's house was ideal. Her upstairs and downstairs have similar windows and doors, she had lovely decks, water views out the windows, and her furniture and design taste is exquisite. Grabbing my low-resolution digital snapshot camera, I went out for a visit.
Gathering the images
I envisioned a scene with the interior at the left, with a glass door leading to the exterior deck to the right, and shot the snapshots accordingly. Back at my computer, I imported the dozen or so snapshots into Photoshop and saved them all with meaningful names so I could easily find them.
      To begin assembling your snapshots, chose one of the images as your starting point and open it in Photoshop. Choose Edit > Select All and then Copy to place this image on your clipboard.
      Next, use the Eyedropper tool while holding down the Option key (Alt for Windows) to choose a color from your start image to be a neutral background color. Looking at your image, decide on how much bigger the canvas would have to be to assemble your basic elements together and don't worry yet about what dimensions you want the final image to be. Choose File > New.
      With the dimensions of your start image loaded into the new file size, enlarge the dimensions of this document sufficiently to assemble your elements, select the Background Color option for Contents, and click OK.
      With your image still on the clipboard, select Paste to place your start image into its own layer and use the Move tool to relocate the position of your start image. Then, one at a time, open up the other images that you want to include and use the Move tool to drag and drop them into the larger document (see Figure 1). Make sure to save your large file in Photoshop format as you go to preserve the layers.
      Choosing a starting image and a neutral background color, I created a new document large enough for assembling the snapshots and used the Move tool to bring them each into the large file and position them.
Story continues on the next page
To learn more creative ways to use Photoshop, check out Creative Thinking in Photoshop: A New Approach to Digital Art (New Riders Publishing, ISBN 0735711224) by Sharon Steuer.
Story copyright 2002, 2003, Sharon Steuer
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